Vanguard News

Political office looters

By Muyiwa Adetiba

Four members of the National Assembly have died within weeks of each other. None of them made it to the biblical age of seventy years. For all their wealth and positions, they could not extend the inevitable; they could not negotiate their timeline on earth. One was said to be preparing for an outing when he breathed his last.

Given their respective ages, they would have made plans for the future. Each to his own dream of grandeur; perhaps to become Governor, perhaps to become President, perhaps to acquire enough clout to become a kingmaker, perhaps to make tons of money and live a life of opulence in the latter years, perhaps to secure the financial future of children born and yet to be born.

You can’t but wonder how much of their thoughts they gave to humanity, or country, or community.

How much thought they gave to the spiritual aspects of life; their purpose in life and the reason God put them where they found themselves – one of them came from one of the poorest zones in the country.

It’s easy to mouth ‘May their souls rest in peace’ and move on with our lives. But that would just be words and mere wishful thinking. Their deeds on earth had already determined where their souls would rest. Our deeds would determine where our own souls would rest as well.

My message is not to them. They are gone to face the final judgement. The judges in heaven are unlike our earthly judges. They cannot be swayed by money, politics or tribe. It is to these judges that they will account for their deeds and misdeeds. It is from these judges that they will know whether their souls will indeed rest in peace or in permanent turmoil. What however is instructive at this point is that nothing material went with them.

Not even their phones which are about the most intimate and personal possession we all have these days. My message is to their colleagues in the Executive, the Judiciary and the Legislature who move from one political office to another gathering huge financial moss along the way; who see service and looting the treasury as the same and are oblivious to the poverty and underdevelopment in the land.

They have given to their departed colleagues what they think the dead deserves – tributes and platitudes. They have moved on with the business of the living which to them is exploiting the system and the poor. If the untimely death of their colleagues meant anything to them, they are still to show it. 2019 is their focus now and all options – intrigues, manipulations, religion, violence, – are on the table. Yet, it would do them a lot of good to pause and think a while.

No one guaranties you tomorrow let alone 2019. And power, when you get it, is fleeting at best. May 2015 was three years ago, yet it looks like yesterday. Soon, many in this government would become ex-this, ex-that. So, for those who want their souls to rest in peace when they eventually depart this world, this is the time to start working towards its realisation.

To our politicians in their short sightedness, eternity is, well eternity; beyond the moment. The moment is about political leverage. The ‘two umbrellas of corruption’ (apologies Intersociety) in the political space, APC and PDP went out in utter shamelessness last week to accuse and counter accuse each other in public. APC fired the first salvo by releasing a tentative list of those of the PDP who were alleged to have looted the treasury. PDP responded with a more expansive list of alleged APC looters including their own stained members who had crossed over to APC and suddenly became ‘washed clean’ by the spirit and soul of APC. These revelations show that while PDP looted in office, APC does not have the moral high ground on which to stand. And the members, mere floating butterflies with no ideology.

A recent report by the International Society for Civil Liberties and the Rule of Law (Intersociety) seriously indicted our two main political parties which it claimed ‘budgeted, squandered and siphoned over $302 billion or N66 trillion in 15 years’ with little or nothing to show for it.

The group came down heavily on the political class describing many of them as ‘Federal Political Criminals”. According to the report, out of the sum of N66trillion budgeted by the Federal Government, less than 30% or 19trillion was budgeted for capital projects for the entire population of 182 million people (NPC estimates May 2017), while expenditures (running costs and remunerations of less than 700,000 public servants of the Federal Government) incurred the remaining N47trillion or 70% of the entire budgets since 2003. In other words, less than 0.35% of the population of 182 million people have consistently accounted for over 70% of our budgets since 2003 ‘leaving the rest of the people in penury, acute backwardness and underdevelopment’.

The Lawmakers of only 941 also came under a heavy criticism ‘for conspiring with the executive to loot the treasury through Appropriation Acts which entailed over bloated running costs and multiplicity of allowances’. It also pointed at the jumbo allowances of N13m and N12m per month as legislative running costs as against the Top Office Holders Amended Act of 2008 which clearly fixed such at about 1m.

The leadership of Organised Labour is not spared; accusing it of conspiracy by always pretending to care for the workers only to acquiesce once their demands are met. It also fingered the main stream media particularly Print, Radio/TV describing them ‘as offshoots of corruption which had the effrontery to organise panellists for discussions bothering on corruption, public decency and morality as well as annual ‘merit awards for excellence’. It also accused a good number of lawyers and rights activists as being beneficiaries of public theft ‘yet they go about pretending to be more catholic than the Pope’.

This report, backed by figures and statistics, is a wakeup call for Nigerians. It explains many things. It explains how less than one million Nigerians have appropriated over 70% of the country’s wealth to themselves. It explains the reason behind our decaying infrastructure and deepening poverty.

It explains why top public office holders live large in and out of office. It explains why those who have tasted the honeypot of politics never want to leave it preferring to float from one party to another, one position to another. More poignantly, it explains why we are rapidly falling behind in every index of human development.

When these public thieves die, we go through the motion and say ‘may their gentle souls rest in peace’. There is nothing gentle about their souls. And there is no peace for the thief.

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